One Down, One To Go.

The pinion carrier assembly was a bit of a game; it was a case of getting what I thought was the right amount of end float and working out how not to lose it in doing up the various threaded rings and nuts. Although the mechanics of the unit are clear, the assembly and set-up sequence is not. Anyway I managed to get it how I wanted it – just enough play to let the oil get round the rollers – after a couple of hours fiddling.

Pinion carrier

Then I thought I’d do something a bit more interesting. I’d decided a couple of weeks ago that the decoration of the grille would have to be understated and I remembered that the previous owner of the Hillman had said that what initially inspired him to take on the wreck was the image of the ‘H’ on the radiator that Hillman put on their cars in the Very Olden Days. It seemed like a nice thing to try and I looked for an image to give me some idea of scale. I couldn’t find anything clear enough (or stylish enough) so, using the ‘H’ that’s embossed on the pedals as a start, I drew up my own version which is just a little bit looser and slightly cheekier than the original.

H Hillman

An hour cutting and filing – it would have been a lot quicker if Abrafiles were still available – and then a few holes to attach the ‘H’ with locking wire and it was time to move on to the next problem.

Electric fan

Having put the electric fan in place, I needed a switch to operate it and this would normally go in either the top of the radiator or somewhere along the inlet pipe. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to have the inlet pipe re-made because there’s not enough room to fit a rubber elbow and then introduce a separate tube and switch housing to join up with another section of hose, to the thermostat housing. In fact, it sounds as messy as it would probably look so what I’m proposing is a 110 degree bend welded into the top flange and then sufficient length of pipe to accommodate the switch housing with just the one joining piece of rubber hose to attach to the thermostat housing. The top pipe also needs to be canted to the off-side by about 15 degrees to get as straight a run as possible. I know the boys at Pro Alloy Motorsports will do this in their sleep so I won’t have to think about it again.

But, what will have to be thought about is The Great Collector’s Darracq rear axle. After a jolly weekend’s sport and just as the finish line appeared, so too did a strange noise from underneath the back seat, followed quickly by a complete seizure of the diff. Back at the ranch and with the axle dismantled, it was evident that the four nuts and bolts that hold the 2 halves of the planet gear casing together, had come adrift; the casing had separated within the outer diff casing and the gears had proceeded to munch on the nuts and a couple of the bolts. The set-up is such that the planet gears are positioned on the back of the crown wheel and luckily, the business side of the crown wheel and the pinion were protected from damage.

Darracq rear axle

The half shaft gears are a bit the worse for their experience.

Darracq rear axle

Still, The Great Collector has two Darracqs so although one’s down, there’s another one that goes.


More Thoughts In The Small Hours.

Well, I know I’m not the first person to do this but it was nice that it all went according to plan. A few weeks ago I’d dunked a couple of pinion carriers in the bucket of diesel to help things along when it came to dismantling. I got the first one apart – not without a lot of heat and a fight – and, although I could see how the end-float was adjusted, the bearings were so tight on the pinion shaft that they wouldn’t have moved in a month of Sundays. I spent an hour polishing the shaft but it was so hard I made almost no impression on it – the bearing fit is better but still tighter than I’d like.

Pinion carrier

So I tried the second one. This was completely different and came apart very easily. The first shaft, I now discover, is a squeak bigger than the second; hence the difficulty. Anyway, new bearings would be needed as all of them are shot to bits. The actual pinions themselves are not too bad – one’s better than the other but both are serviceable. I hunted around for bearings and basically drew a blank until I tripped over Bearing Supplies in Horsham St Faith. They managed to find what I needed and sent them straight away. Excellent people.

pinion carriers

A splash of paint has made the castings presentable and then I came to the oil seal. Hmm, this don’t look too bright. It’s a captive felt ring that might work when new (I made up a ring from some special printer’s felt I had in the stores) but after a mile or two, its efficacy would rapidly diminish. I elected to sleep on that one and the upshot of my thoughts in the small hours was that I would machine the casting and fit a modern lip seal. It’s the sort of thing that I read that grown-up engineers do so why not give it a go?  Of course, having 2 castings to play with gave me a certain confidence. It all went very well and I even cleaned and trued up the surfaces with a light cut to finish.

Lip seal

The bottom casting is in its original state and I’ve left the felt seal that I made up, in place – just in case the lip seal is a disaster. So, as soon as the paint’s dry, I’ll put the 2 carriers back together again and keep one as a spare.

Chumley’s getting a bag of sausages for making up the Woodruff keys for the rear hubs (on closer examination, the key that I removed appears to have been built up with weld) and I’ll try to find a bit of gen on back-lash and meshing ready for the final assembly. And that’ll be the rear axle complete – apart from shortening the wheel studs.

I’ve managed to procure another second-hand steering sector shaft in even better condition than the first one so next weekend should see the completion of the steering box and I can put the drop arm and drag-link on for keeps.

I was mooching about in the wallpaper factory the other day and noticed a ‘Y’ pipe that reminded me of my plans for the 2 exhausts..

'Y' pipe

I took the picture just to give me an idea of how to create the join although it won’t be a severe as this one. I haven’t really applied myself to the fabrication of the directional control valve but I’m sure something will come to me in the small hours…..

If It’s Too Good To Be True…..

Because the weekend’s work on the shape of the body had gone so well, I turned to reviewing what I’d done because it had gone almost too well. Sure enough, I realised that the frames were at the wrong height because I’d not put the bottom rails and the floorboards in position. The floorboards are about an inch thick and sit on the bottom rails so if I just raised the frames to correct the omission, then the rake from the scuttle to the radiator would become too steep. So the radiator would have to go up an inch as well. Which, in turn, meant that the steering column was out of kilter both in height (of the steering wheel) and length. I went back to the tourer with my tape measure and, immediately distracted as it was such a nice day – ‘Drive it Day’, as it turned out – I went for a spin. There was ‘undreds of old cars roarin’ about – everyone waving to each other and so forth; a drop of sunshine just transforms everything. I stopped in a village to pass the time of day with a Norfolk farmer who was out for a jolly in his 1930’s Morris Minor and then went on for tea at Cook’s.

I got back quite late in the afternoon to find Learned Counsel had put the body frame on the Jowett Jackanapes.

Jowett Jupiter body frame

He must have seen me working on the body of the Hillman and thought he’d better look lively. I haven’t seen any sign of the wheels yet – he’s going to need some of those.

Anyway, back to the Hillman… after a bit of measuring, I determined that the steering column would have to be lengthened by about 4″ so I put in a 6″ extension because I know how these rulers can sometimes throw me a curved ball….

Steering Column extension

I’ve raised the radiator shell and consequently I’ll have to make up 4 bolts with a grip length of about 5″ – the old ones are now too short. I could buy them but they’re prohibitively expense and they’re not under any particular strain so my home-made ones will suffice.  The rear of the car is looking good and that little kick up at the tail, I don’t know why but I think it really makes the difference.


The car is a little bit taller now but I reckon that at least 75% of the weight is still going to be below the top of the wheels and I’m told by Learned Counsel that this is a good thing. The steering wheel is now in more or less the same position for the driver as on the tourer so that’ll be very comfortable (and another good thing).

Higher body

So with the new arrangements in place I borrowed The Navigator, who happened to be lurking in the vicinity, to hang on to everything while I took a picture – the wind was getting up and it was only bits of string and a few Bulldog clips holding it all together.

The Navigator

I’m not sure what she found so amusing; this is a perfectly serious business as far as I’m concerned.

That’s Art That Is.

The first decent day in months. I opened the workshop door at 7.30 – that was probably a bit enthusiastic as there was quite a sharp frost overnight – and got cracking on the body. I spend quite a lot of time thinking about how to do things but really, there’s no substitute for getting stuck in and making the first cut. Sure; I’m going to make a few mistakes but these are more often than not oversights – things I didn’t see until the job was offered up. But if the sun’s out and you’re down to shirt sleeves for the first time in 7 or 8 months, nothing is too big a problem.

Body 1

So the first thing to do was to muster as many Bulldog clips and strips of wood as possible and get the body line right(ish) so bulkheads and frames could be cut to shape. I decided to use 12mm ply for the basic shapes of the frames and then later, I’ll build up around them with ash. Unfortunately, inexpensive cameras produce terrible distortions and in actual fact the top longeron is horizontal from the radiator to the frame behind the seat. That’s quite an important factor in the styling – at the moment it looks a bit like a flying banana (the sort of idea that Learned Counsel would pick up on and repeat endlessly). It looks a bit better 3/4 front..

Body 4

The sides of the body aren’t going to be barreled like my Austin; they’re just nipped in from top to bottom from the firewall back. The plan view is looking very skiff-like so far but the back won’t be as sharp as it is here..

Body 2

… and the rear frame will be open in the middle. The office is looking good and the ergonomics are pretty much the same as the ’29 tourer. I sat in the mock-up the other night. It felt very comfortable and I was delighted to find that the clutch was quite light – Miss X will appreciate that.

Body 7

However, the bottom rail is 1″ ash, plus a bit for the anti-vibration matting I’m putting between that and the chassis so, to preserve the body line I’ve cut the required amount from the bottom of the frames and that’s lowered the dashboard – so I’ve had to take an 1″ from the bottom of that as well – all that means is that the instruments will be slightly more closely packed but you won’t clang your knees on the panel. The hole for the pedals was a bit of a lark (here was one of my mis-cuts) and the relief for the steering column was also a bit of a game..

Pedal opening

.. but it all worked out in the end. So by late afternoon I had the two cockpit frames cut – there’s still a bit of tidying up to do on the top radiuses – and had cut to length the forward parts of the bottom rails. Throw on a couple or three floorboards and you’ve got a car!


And whilst I was cleaning up ready for the next step, I noticed that the sun had come round the corner and was now low enough to cast some interesting shadows on the floor of the workshop…


That’s art that is.

The Interesting Bit.

I’ll probably be cursing about it in a few weeks but I’ve made a start on the bodywork.

Bodywork begins

It may not look much but it’s a bit of a giant leap when you put up the first piece of cardboard. Immediately things you fretted about fall into place – the 3-dimensional tangle you had in your head unravels and you see that it’s not as complicated as you first thought (I was concerned about the pedal travel, especially the clutch and how it might go too far into the engine bay). The other thing I was concerned about was the flow of air through the bay and out under the floor. I think I got this a bit wrong with the Austin and ended up cutting great chunks of metal out of the returns on the side panels and adding louvres on top of the bonnet. I don’t think it’s helped particularly and the real problem is more likely to be the lack of a seal around the radiator – something I shall address when it goes back together again.

I shouldn’t be having the same cooling problems with the Hillman. I pulled an old thermostat from one of the spare engines, cleaned it up and tested it. It’s an 82 degree one and I suddenly had a thought; if these engines are a bit prone to burning out valves because of cooling problems, why don’t I fit a 74 degree thermostat and it’ll open earlier…. Good thinking Batman but it don’t work like that. The engine’s still going to heat up past the 74 degree mark isn’t it? Oh, yes. I had a quick chat with Pro Alloy (the chaps who built my fabulous radiator) and they’re sending me an electric fan (the mounts are already on the core) and an inline switch for which I can cobble up a pipe and union and put between the thermostat and the radiator inlet. I did that on the Austin… I think that was one of my first pieces of TIG welding and it didn’t, and hasn’t leaked – beginner’s luck!

Austin temp guage pipe

In fact, if the radiator is especially efficient, it might be that the engine’s going to run too cool. That’s the sort of problem you want, according to Learned Counsel.

I spent most of the weekend on detail work and finishing up jobs I’d left because there was something more interesting to get on with. You can do only so many split pins before dark thoughts begin to blur your vision….. but the job is done and the cable side of the brakes is finished, as is all the gear-change linkage.


I’ve taken the plunge and ordered the alternator I was talking about, it should arrive in the next few days. I’m also putting in the fuel line a decent on/off valve. The little brass tap I put into the Austin system is suffering – leaking a bit – because of the ethanol content in some fuels – apparently. A lot of vintage car friends are using the more expensive unleaded fuels and seem to have great success with it; perhaps I’ll give that a go with the Austin. I’ve already got one of those lead/tin pellet fandangos in the tank but I don’t know if it does any good because I fitted it from new. The Hillman tourer’s got one too and it seems to go alright.

I’m, once again, at a stage where I need to do everything else before I can get on with the bit I need to do first. That always makes life interesting.

Another Box Ticked.

And the bonus is that both brake and clutch systems worked more or less straight away!

Brake & Clutch mechanism

There was a bit of an emergency when I found that the clutch cable was going through too tight a radius – it’s not obvious in the picture but the cable doubles back under all this to hook up with the clutch lever on the bell-housing. Anyway, Learned Counsel popped his head round the corner and said “What you want is an RS2000 cable; it’s a bit longer because of the 5 speed box” (‘e know some stuff  ‘e do). So I ordered one and it’s perfect. What’s also not shown in this picture is the clutch adjustment fandango. I got an 18mm bolt, bored it out and put it between the end of the outer cable and the bracket shown above and it’s given me oodles of adjustment and aligned both pedals.

The brake mechanism; I re-spliced the cable I had to take apart and got the works back up and running and, the problems I thought I was going to have with linking the cable and hydraulic systems together have, so far, seemed to have melted away. There’s so much adjustment available in the cable system that it almost doesn’t matter what the pedal travel is on the hydraulic cylinder; I can set it up exactly how I want it with the front brakes leading the rears; so that’s a relief. Of course, there’s still the question of whether or not I’ve picked the right master cylinder to handle the 2 slaves on the hubs. That’s one of the next jobs – brake pipes and reservoir.

Rear view of controls

It’s all looking quite business like and the design and build of the firewall and scuttle is fairly imminent. I put the big brass water pipe on the nearside of the engine in preparation for the radiator going in the shell.

Water pipe

I’ve attached the bottom of the shell with 4 bolts that go through bobbins in the cross member so the bottom of the radiator is reasonably firm. The top of the shell will be supported by the bonnet hinge and the top radiator hose.

Shell Mounting

And, before I put the radiator core in, the badge has to be finished. The building up of the layers of paint was getting a bit tedious so I just mixed up a big blob, slapped it in and scraped the surplus off with a fancy laminated business card someone had given me. It’ll take a few weeks to harden and then I have to do the same with the light blue damaged area – it all takes time but this short-cut seems to have worked. I strode confidently into the make-up department in Morrisons and picked up a bottle of clear nail-varnish to finish the badge.

So far, so good

I’m thinking about electronic ignition. Typically I’ve ended up with a distributor that Aston Martin and Jaguar fitted so the price of everything is hiked accordingly and some of the more expensive conversions require some remedial and non-reversible work to the internals. I don’t want to do that; I want to be able to chuck the lot in the ditch when it fails to perform and go back to points and condenser – which I shall keep handy in the tool box. After some searching on the web, I found a system that seemed to have quite good press and was sensibly priced. I’m also thinking about one of those alternators that look like the original dynamo…. they’re not cheap but dynamos can be a real pain, especially if you’re doing a lot of night driving.

You’ll recall that last weekend I was taken up with wedding duties – a fact that was not lost on Learned Counsel who delighted in telling me what he was going to achieve whilst I was engaged elsewhere. Well, what a lot of flannel…

Jowett dipswitch

… he managed to get the dip-switch in. He must have been busy.

You ‘Orrible Little Man!

I’ve been doing a bit of painting – the new clutch and brake bits and the old bits that needed touching up before the final assembly and, as is my custom, I moved the bathroom towel rail into the sitting room and lit the wood burner to help with the drying process. Included in the newly painted bits are parts of an old Autovac which I’ve rescued and intend to employ as the brake fluid reservoir for the front brakes. There are a few dents in the casing which I was hoping to knock out but, as usual, forgot about them and went ahead with the painting. I happened to glance up from my reading the other evening and the dents caught my eye. Yes! Of course!… they’re air gun pellet dents; some beastly little tic must have been blasting away at the Autovac with an air rifle!

More painting

And talking of painting, I’ve started to build up the repair layers on the original Hillman badge. I’m shooting in the dark here but as I’ve got oil paints to hand, that’s what I’m using. I can mix up the exact colour and then finish off with clear nail polish when the paint is high enough. It looks good so far…

Hillman badge repairs

A bit of good news ….. the other day I tripped over a Bugatti type 40 with a hood that folds away under a hinged panel and was able to take a few pics and make a couple of sketches. Almost at the same time,  I remembered that an acquaintance just a few miles away has a Vauxhall 30/98 with a ‘hidden’ hood arrangement and I button-holed him in the car park at Morrisons last week and asked if I could visit and take a few notes. ‘Delighted; any time’, he said, but added that it was a nightmare system and by the time it was up the sun was usually showing its face again.

Plug leads

I did the plug lead ends the other night – it was so blinkin’ cold that that was all I could manage. I’ve just got enough lead left to connect to the coil where I think the firewall is going to be. This weekend I was planning to get the pedal box put to bed when I remembered that I was on wedding car duty. Fortunately, I managed to borrow a pretty fancy Bentley and swanked about in that for the day. It didn’t matter that my landlord saw it outside my ‘umble cottage because it was his daughter who was getting married..

Bentley Turbo R

And whilst talking of celebrations, this 100th post puts me in both reflective and celebratory mood. Here is where it all began 15 months ago..

First Light

… and this was what was left of the cockpit.

Hillman cockpit

I’m not sure what it is that drives us to take on these projects, especially when they look like a disaster from the outset. Perhaps it’s the vision of what things could be or a just basic urge, common to chaps-in-sheds, to take things apart and put them back together again. Whatever it is, when we get so far that there’s no going back, it must be cause for some celebration.

It was that ‘orrible little tic what painted the instruments I’ll bet.